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How Chatbots are Being Used in the Travel Industry
People travel all around the world for business and pleasure. One of the things they look for when traveling is a smooth experience with whatever company they decide to work with. Everyday, new travel companies are rising to compete for customers across the globe and with them are new technologies to give a competitive edge.
To add to this ongoing challenge is the recent 2020 pandemic, which has once again transformed the way people travel in the world. Adaption is perhaps the key ingredient to what makes or breaks a travel company’s success today.
The question to you is: can you keep up?
Helping you in this digital transformation journey for customer acquisition and retention, the vChat team has developed chatbot technology. This revolutionary tool creates a new way for travel businesses like yours to communicate across time and space.
Here are some of the powerful ways chatbots are being used in the travel industry.
If there’s one thing that matters more than anything in travel, it’s the customer. What they feel when they sit in a cabin of an airplane; what they smell when they walk into a hotel room for the first time; what they see when they arrive at their destination; all the details of a customer experience matter.
Nothing is perfect and there will be hiccups along the journey. How you respond to customer issues will make all the difference. This is where chatbots come to defuse negative incidents and provide solutions around the clock and in real-time.
Sal is a frequent flyer and recently noticed a discrepancy on his bill for a recent flight. It’s 10PM and he is being asked by his employer to turn in all his receipts for compensation. To alleviate this problem, Sal logs into the airline website and speaks with a chatbot sharing details on his account and correcting billing error with accurate information.
Fixing the billing error took Sal less than 15 minutes. Compare that to a typical wait time to speak with a live customer service agent for 30+ minutes, and you will quickly see that chatbots are saving both customers and companies time and money through their helpful and instantaneous support.
In many ways, chatbots are virtual employees augmenting your real-life team by unburdening them with the more simple repetitive tasks and allowing those team members to tackle only the most complex ones.
Encourage Direct Bookings
One of the ongoing challenges travel companies face is bringing in new customers, and to help them with their marketing efforts OTA, or online travel agencies have opened shop. These agencies are experts in wrangling in new customers but at a generous commission fee.
In an ideal world, travel companies would want their customers to directly book with them without having to pay an agency. Fortunately, chatbots facilitate direct bookings by providing an omni-channel approach that is highly personalized to prospective customers.
Jessica was curious about a trip to the Bahamas that her friend recently told her about. Scrolling through her Facebook feed, Jessica sees a picture of the beach with palm trees and the ocean reflected by a beautiful sunset. She clicks to learn more and is directed to an airline page on Facebook.
Immediately, a chatbot engages with her asking a series of questions. Intrigued, Jessica responds through a fluid and natural conversation.
“Hi Jessica, what do you like about the Bahamas?”
“I love the ocean and the weather looks really nice over there.”
“I like the ocean too. It’s the perfect time of year to visit—not too cold, not too hot. Would you like to take a vacation there soon?”
“I would, but I don’t have the time or money.”
“No money? I do know of some affordable options that might be in your budget, would you like to see them?”
Chatbots are collecting data about customers as they take actions and converse in real-time. Thanks to the artificial intelligence component of chatbot technology, they can personalize responses and keep the conversation going similarly to how a real human might.
Support for Full Booking Journey
Part of being a good steward for customer service is being as transparent as possible. You can be a key beneficiary in providing excellence for your customers by educating them on your products and services. This ties directly into the details of your core offerings including things like pricing, timelines, and accommodations for a variety of ADA needs.
Capturing the breath of knowledge can be a daunting task for an individual but is extremely easy for a chatbot. The reason a chatbot is well informed is because it draws on a database that updates in real-time by integrating with tools your business uses.
A common example is the calendar for air travel. As passengers book flights, the chatbot can cross reference availability slots and only offer vacancies to a customer looking to book. This means no double booking thereby reducing the margin for error.
When we talk about chatbots supporting the full booking journey, we don’t want a customer to ever get lost in multiple menus, get frustrated and then leave in the middle of a booking session. Instead, a good CX, conversational experience, will always drive a customer towards an intended destination or goal.
Chatbots provide intuitive ways to redirect the customer when they are confused and keep them on track with the goal.
One example of good CX is multilingual functionality. Travel is a global activity so naturally cultures will clash across many different regions. AI-powered chatbots can detect language patterns from customer inputs and translate the lexicon to match what’s comfortable for the users.
A great application of this adaptation is GPS tracking, which finds the geographical location of a customer, and begins the conversation with a baseline language to engage in.
But what about multilingual customers who have a preference?
Chatbots can be customized directly by the customer. When Dave visits a Mexican restaurant website to look at the menu a chatbot might engage with a prompt: “Are you looking for a menu is English or Spanish?” Dave now has the choice to speak in the language of his choosing.
Cross Selling and Upselling
In addition to great customer service, chatbots expand your travel business goals by offering other related options to a customer’s initial interest. A customer books a flight? Offer to upgrade to first class. A customer books a hotel? Offer to add personal room service breakfast during their morning wake-up.
These marketing and sales tactics are non-invasive, coming naturally as part of the conversation. It shows how versatile chatbots can be in augmenting travel staff in a myriad of roles.
As mentioned in the example with Jessica, chatbots personalize conversations with prospective customers based on the actions they take. But the recommendations can go deeper thanks to the memories chatbots can retain at scale.
If Jessica doesn’t decide to book a flight to the Bahamas, the chatbot will continue to engage with her during subsequent visits by remembering her name, her price consciousness, and her love for the ocean.
For instance, next time Jessica visits the Facebook page, or stops by the airline website, the chatbot would offer an exclusive discount catered for her needs. Chatbots are really good at probing customer preferences with the right questions because they can take the insights and improve future messages.
This is thanks again to the AI, specifically with an area called machine learning (or ML). Just imagine if the booking happens with Jessica, now your travel business can cross sell hotel recommendations, things to do in the area and reap additional revenue through a chatbot.
Smoother Arrivals and Departures
Perhaps the timeliest benefit of chatbot technology for customers in the travel industry is how it provides a seamless transition for entering and exiting transactions during their trip. Usually accompanying smartphone technology or company apps, chatbots allow customers to self-service their needs in real-time, 24/7.
Hotel guests may not want to queue to check in or out of their rooms, standing in long lines and negotiating with the concierge. Diners may not want to wait for a server to process their check. The key element here is convenience and speed. People live in an increasingly busy world, with attention spans dwindling and expectations rising.
Chatbots are meeting customer expectations by giving them everything they desire and that looks good for your travel company.
Obtain Customer Feedback
Something that often gets overlooked (which should not) is the opportunity for you to gather customer feedback and figure out what’s working and not working for your travel business operations.
How many times have you given someone a piece of paper and asked them to log on to a website with a printed URL and rate their experience, only to have them throw it away? Customer opinions matter.
Earlier we talked about the convenience of chatbots to support the full booking journey. When you have many touchpoints with chatbot interactions, it’s natural to include a quick feedback loop at the end of a conversation.
Cher just finished booking a car at your rental company. The chat conversation could just end like this:
“Thank you so much for booking a car with us. We look forward to seeing you on Thursday at the lot.”
Which is okay. But this would be even better.
“Thank you for booking a car with us. Is there anything else I can help you with today? If not, would you mind sharing your experience booking a car in a few words, and include a rating from 1-5, 1 being not good and 5 being the best you’ve had?”
The second one will offer more value to your company with little to no cost to customers because they are already there and available to share it. There are so many ways to gather feedback through chatbots and one other example with the car rental might be post-drive when Cher returns it. The chatbot might prompt her for the condition and performance of the car. Just think what you could do with all that data to improve your operations.